Bangladesh is preparing to exit the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) in 2026 with higher aims to be listed among the developed countries by 2041. For stable economic growth, having a reliable energy system is a necessity.
Firstly, the scarcity of reserves of fossil fuels is a red flag for our development. Secondly, achieving self-sufficiency in the power sector is a challenge for us. Bangladesh requires core knowledge of all available local energy resources in this geological position.
The reliability of energy is a major factor in consideration. Loadshedding is a huge obstacle for any business that wishes to thrive. Reliable power is, therefore, a priority for the government. Being a victim of climate change, Bangladesh’s coastal areas and riverbanks are always open to risks. Erosion and flooding force investors to rethink and relocate their renewable energy infrastructure and policy.
The demand for electricity in Bangladesh is estimated to reach 50 thousand MW by 2041. To fulfill the expected demand while increasing growth in the export-oriented economy, the government plans to increase power generation by 40 GW simultaneously.
The economy of Bangladesh depends on RMG, agro, and the manufacturing sector. The progress in all these sectors largely depends on the uninterrupted supply of electric energy. The supply deficit of power energy is constraining our GDP. To continue at a high GDP growth rate, ensuring surplus electricity production should be the government’s target. By 2041, Bangladesh needs an estimated USD 35 billion investment in the power sector to meet its goals.
Production of gas is largely government-controlled. However, the government has incentivized private investors to attract investment in the energy sector. 60% of the investment for energy projects is sponsored by the Bangladesh government, which collects funds from international organizations like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc. The other 40% of the fund comes from private investors, which includes FDIs and local companies.
The recent geo-political and economic events showed uncertainty and riskiness of relying only on import-based energy. The Russia-Ukraine war has caused inflation and volatility in the supply and demand of energy in the international market. Globally increased demand for gas has led to increased prices for consumers and higher costs for investors. Boosting cross-border interconnectivity is one way to reduce dependency on imports.
Many of the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, have abundant hydropower resources. This gives Bangladesh an alternative option to import hydro-based electricity from the neighboring countries for power supply. Hydropower can be a great solution to reduce the local energy crisis while keeping environmental concerns in mind. The Chinese state-owned company National Machinery Import and Export Corporation has shown interest in building renewable energy infrastructure for Bangladesh.
The partial independence from imported fossil fuels amid the global energy crisis can be our story of rise as we strive to be a middle-income country. Bangladesh relies heavily on domestic sources of natural gas. A constant decrease in domestic gas reserves puts pressure on importing expensive LNG in higher amounts. The country also depends on other fossil fuel sources such as diesel, furnace oil, coal, and hydropower.
Renewable energy sources like the solar system, wind energy, and hydropower are sources of energy that can reduce pressure on fossil fuels. However, Renewable energy only covers 3% of the national energy mix. Bangladesh National Solar Energy Action Plan proposed to install 40(GW) of power by 2041. To discover the potential resources of Renewable Energy in Bangladesh, the World Future Council initiated the project ‘100% Renewable Energy for Bangladesh – Access to renewable energy for all within one generation’ in 2018.
The most common renewable energy sources are solar, wind, biomass, hydro, biogas, geothermal, etc. Bangladesh, China, India, and Japan are renowned countries of renewable energy development in Asia. So, there is potential for a diversified renewable energy mix in this geographical land.
Treating nuclear energy as renewable energy is a controversial topic worldwide. Despite being environmentally hazardous, economists believe constructing the Rooppur nuclear power plant (RNPP) was a good thought. It is being prepared to start its first commercial operation by 2024 and the second operation by 2025.
Bangladesh has planned to transition its dependency on natural gas to coal-based fuel due to the lower renewable energy potential. Coal currently accounts for only 10 percent of Bangladesh’s primary energy demand. In 2021, the government of Bangladesh planned to ensure coal-based power plants with the capacity to produce 7.5 GW of electricity. According to an estimation, Bangladesh has 1117-million-ton (MT) coal reserves that are extractable from the five different suitable points.
Barapukuria Coal Mining plant is the only coal extraction plant in Bangladesh that supplies coal fuels to power production units in the country. The Dighipara coal mine in Dinajpur is predicted to produce 3,500 tons of coal daily. Bangladesh’s government has been focusing on shaping the energy sector with utmost priority. Both sustainable (solar, wind, hydro, biomass, etc.) and conventional energy (oil, gas, coal, etc.) sources are considered significant energy resources for our country.
The government of Bangladesh has introduced various renewable energy-based projects making it easier to be goal oriented toward secure, reliable, and affordable energy access for all. During the last two decades, Bangladesh has significantly impacted rural areas by providing and expanding electricity access. Solar home systems (SHSs) got popularized due to their lower cost and more accessible installation facility.
Solar Irrigation Programs, Solar Home Systems, and Solar Rooftop Systems are outstanding projects that helped shape rural electrification. With gas still being the dominant fuel energy, the uptake of solar power, wind, and hydropower has been promising. Perhaps Bangladesh is on its way to achieving the SDG 7 target of Affordable and Clean Energy and the SDG 9 target of Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.